Leafs lure goaltending guru from Anaheim

 

The Maple Leafs, undercut by substandard goaltending most of last season, have hired highly regarded goaltending consultant Francois Allaire to help fix the problem.

 
 
 
 
 

The Maple Leafs, undercut by substandard goaltending most of last season, have hired highly regarded goaltending consultant Francois Allaire to help fix the problem.

While it is still unclear who Allaire will be helping – the Leafs are pursuing Swedish prospect Jonas Gustavsson to become Vesa Toskala's backup – it is something of a coup to land the Montrealer.

The 53-year-old spent the past 13 seasons as the goaltending consultant in Anaheim and is credited with helping Jonas Hillier emerge as a promising NHL netminder. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who won the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup in 2007, also frequently spoke glowingly of Allaire's mentoring.

But Allaire said, with two teenaged children, the travel between California and his Montreal home was becoming untenable. He sought permission from the Ducks to pursue job opportunities in the east and the Leafs were the most proactive in trying to land his services.

"With teenagers, I felt I had to be a little bit closer to my family," Allaire said last night. "I'm really excited to get another chance in the NHL to prove myself and hopefully win a Stanley Cup with the Leafs."

Allaire said the decision was easier because he had worked, and won a championship, with Leafs general manager Brian Burke in Anaheim. With the Ducks he also worked with Toronto's assistant GM Dave Nonis and coach Ron Wilson so it was a very comfortable fit.

"We consider Francois to be one of the best in the world at his craft," Burke said in a statement. "He brings a tremendous amount of experience and I know that he will make an immediate impact with our goalies."

Although Allaire said his exact duties will get hammered out over the next few days, he is expecting to work with netminders throughout the Toronto organization. Corey Hirsch, Toronto's goaltending coach, remains with the club.

Allaire is considered a guru to the butterfly goaltenders coming out of Quebec. Before he joined Anaheim, he was in the Montreal organization where Patrick Roy was his most famous student.

Allaire's arrival is just one of the recent changes as Burke puts his stamp on a team he joined in mid-season.

He also fired long-time strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol and dumped head athletic therapist Rudy Cantu and assistant therapist Steve Dias.

Those changes come after the Leafs canned Marlies coach Greg Gilbert and his assistants last week.

Allaire said he's looking forward to forging a relationship with Toskala.

The arrival of Allaire might cause some speculation that Giguere won't be too far behind since the two were so close in Anaheim. However, that seems unlikely. Giguere will earn $6 million (all figures U.S) this coming season and $7 million in 2010-11. His cap hit is $6 million a season and, at 32, he is coming off a difficult campaign; his father died, he ranked 37th in save percentage (.900) and 42nd in goals against average (3.10).

Toskala has one year remaining on his contract at $4 million. There has been no clear indication yet as to whether Burke will re-sign restricted free agent Justin Pogge.

 
 
 
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9/17/2014 3:35:51 PM
 
 

 
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